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Pope Francis appoints new Philippine bishop

Father Luisito Occiano, newly appointed bishop of Diocese Virac, Philippines (Photos: The Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Joseph)

Pope Francis appointed a new bishop for the Diocese of Virac in the Philippines on February 29.

The newly appointed bishop is Father Luisito Occiano of the Archdiocese of Caceres, located in the Bicol Region.

"With hearts brimming with gratitude to the Almighty, we joyously announce the appointment of our new bishop, Rev. Fr. Luisito Audal Occiano, by the Vatican today, February 29, at 7:00 pm," said the statement in the official announcement of the diocese of Virac.

The Pope approved the retirement of Bishop Manolo de los Santos, and Father Occiano will succeed in his position.

"As we collectively lift our voices in thanksgiving for the dedicated service of our beloved Bishop Manolo de los Santos throughout the years, we also extend a warm welcome to Bishop Elect Luisito," the statement said.

Since 1994, Bishop De Los Santos, who is now 76 years old, has been serving as a priest in the island Diocese of Virac in the province of Catanduanes.

At present, Father Occiano, who is 52 years old, fills the roles of rector and parish priest at the Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Joseph in San Jose town, which is located in the province of Camarines Sur. He is also the Archdiocesan Director of the Caceres Commission on Communication.

Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona of the Archdiocese of Caceres, who recently retired, remembered Fr. Occiano during his installation as the Rector of the Shrine as a "humble, approachable priest with a warm personality.

He also added that “he relates well with the people and works effectively with them, and he is very committed to his work.”

The archbishop also stated that there was a point when he desired for Fr. Occiano to attend the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome to study diplomacy “because he could be a diplomat.”

Archbishop Tirona stated that he has the charisma for the role.

Father Occiano was born on June 21, 1971. He attended Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City and completed his studies in philosophy and theology here. On November 10, 1996, he became a priest through ordination.

After his ordination, he continued his education at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he focused on religious formation and catechesis. Additionally, he is a graduate of the Ateneo de Naga University, where he earned a Master of Arts degree.

During his early years as a priest, he worked as a parish vicar at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Subsequently, he became the secretary to Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, who was serving as Caceres' shepherd at the time.

He also held the position of director of the catechetical ministry within the archdiocese, in addition to serving as the vice-rector of the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

In 2003, he assumed the position of parochial vicar at the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Naga City.

From 2015 to 2021, he served as the parish priest at St. Bartholomew Parish in Baao, situated in the province of Camarines Sur.

As of this writing, no date has been set for Fr. Occiano’s episcopal ordination and installation as the third bishop of the Diocese of Virac.- Leahna Villajos


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